Mastering Facebook Live and avoiding amateur hour

April 28, 2016 01:30

By Kevin Benz, RTDNA Contributor

If the explosion of notifications on my feed are any indication, journalists are loving Facebook Live. This “real-time” reporting medium offers outstanding opportunities to connect with new audiences and to prove the hard, 24-hour work journalists do everyday.

Yes, Periscope has been around for over a year, but there are some specific advantages to using Facebook Live instead. First, Facebook will help you promote your coverage, moving it to the top of feeds. (You must check out the Facebook Live Map, very cool.) Most importantly, your reporting lives on beyond the live coverage, while Periscope coverage is deleted after 24 hours. Good journalism is meant to last as a historical archive.

Of course this also means Facebook Live offers the chance to make a fool of yourself if your reporting is not well thought out and to some extent choreographed.

As a professional journalist, your bar for quality storytelling is higher. Your audience expects more of your live reporting than they do, say, of their kid or their neighbor. Yet, you’ve probably seen a few reporters forget this concept — failing to pay attention to lighting and sound, talking too much over video or forgetting to talk to the characters around them.

Here are some tips and best practices for using Facebook Live as a regular part of your reporting. Think about the 5 W’s and the H and always remember, Facebook Live is still journalism.

Who
... is your audience?
The people watching you are likely not the same people watching your newscast or reading your newspaper. During breaking news you may be broadcasting directly to people affected by the event. If you are backstage at a concert your audience may mostly be fans of the artist, from all over the world. Knowing who you want to reach will help you fashion a more relevant live story.
... will you talk to?
Your story should not be about you, it is about the event you are covering. Find the people on scene who know what is happening and talk to them in real-time; glean information that you would never have time to report in another medium. Don’t forget to be interactive with your viewers as well, acknowledge them by name as they comment and answer their questions live.

What
... is happening now?
Facebook Live offers immediacy — take advantage of that. For instance, you might go live as people are gathering for a protest, then come back and show the protest as it happens. Your audience expects to see the immediacy promised by a live shot — deliver it.
... ethical concerns do you have?
Remember, you are live, your audience will see what you see in real-time, so your journalistic ethical principles all apply. Prepare yourself for what could go wrong and be sensitive to those who might be harmed by what you show. Avoid supposition. Be careful, don’t get so engrossed in your camera shot that you ignore what’s happening around you.

When
... will you go live?
Choose your timing and then promote it to your audience. Facebook allows you to promote yourself and your live coverage. Let your audience know when you’ll be live and ask them to share the information with their friends.

Where
... will you go live?
Choosing when to go live might be based on when things are happening, but choosing what you will show the audience is a different decision. Your live coverage should be choreographed. Where will you walk? Where is your first interview subject? How will you get from here to there? How will you establish your location and then clearly show what is happening from up close? Make these decisions before you go live, then be the tour guide and follow the action.

Why
... are you doing this live shot?
It may seem obvious, but being live just because you can is hardly a good reason. Your coverage should tell a story, enlighten your audience, take people somewhere new or document an important event. Make it memorable.

How
... will the video look?
You are a professional, so pay attention to the basics. You may be shooting with a cell phone but your audience still expects good video and sound. Make sure you are on a strong cell or Wi-fi signal, make sure the light is good, keep your video steady and stay close to your microphone.
Looking for more tips? Here are some good ones from Facebook itself.


You can follow former RTDNA Chairman Kevin Benz' journalism blog at i-mediastrategies.com/journalists. Kevin coaches newsrooms in leadership, journalism ethics and talent performance.